Sports has always been my life. Not just a part of my life, but the love of my life. First, it was soccer. My team not only played regular soccer, and took the state championship, but we also played indoor leagues, won sand soccer tournaments and competed Nationally in Futsal games. We got together to watch Shaolin Soccer and were at the Premier of Bend it like Beckham. Our sleepovers consisted of watching She’s the Man on repeat and laughing at how bad Amanda Bynes is at Soccer.
Then came volleyball.
Where soccer was my first love, Volleyball grew to be my true love. I have played competitively in 15 different countries and casually in many more. I brought a volleyball and taught the locals at Mt. Everest base camp how to play. I have ‘peppered’ on the Great Wall of China. I have seen, and made my friends and family watch every terrible volleyball movie that comes out.
Growing up a true gym rat, I played up an age group for most of my club career, often joining other team’s practices so I could play more. Having achieved well over my 10,000 hours of practice before college, it should come to no one’s surprise that I was offered multiple scholarships to play in college.
It is usually at this point people ask me if my parents are athletes, to which I reply “yes”, but the sports stories I grew up on are not what most people think.
Both my parents played basketball, and as a 6’3” woman, you would think I would play as well. I grew so quickly that I was uncoordinated and there was no way I could run and dribble a ball, but this did not stop my parents from trying to teach me when I was younger. My mother coached my team, and I’m sure did a wonderful job, but I was no help. Searching for distraction from how bad I was and looking for a connection with her, I asked about her days growing up playing. She would wax poetic about the friends she made, and scandalously whispered about how she was put in to “foul out”, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned about the real scandal.
You see, my mother grew up in the heart of Oklahoma when girls were ‘too delicate’ and ‘not strong enough’ to play men’s sports. Her basketball team had twice the players on it because they were only allowed to run on half the court. Fearing the female’s weak disposition, some adults somewhere decided that girls could play, but only if they stayed on one side of the half court line and passed to the other side like a basketball relay race. My mother would fight and foul to steal the ball away from her opponents then struggle to get to the half way line where she had to pass it off to a teammate.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for teamwork, but never being given the opportunity to even take your shot must have been hard.
I now play professional volleyball overseas and had my college education and my graduate degree paid for by the university’s athletics department. I was captain of the U.S. Youth Olympic team in Singapore where we won the Silver medal. I have represented the United States in four different countries. I have friends on almost every continent from my volleyball travels. I wake up everyday happy knowing that I am living my dream.
When I think of all these things my sport has given me, and how much my life is better for it, I always have my mom in the back of my mind, standing at the division line, looking at the basket and knowing she will never be able to take a shot.
I wonder where would she be if title 9 had given her her shot like it gave me mine.